CNMI celebrates 38 years of becoming part of US


Today marks the 38th year since U.S. President Gerald Ford signed a joint congressional resolution approving a mutually negotiated “Covenant” that made the Northern Mariana Islands a part of the American political family and later made the islands’ residents U.S. citizens. But while there are no festivities to mark Covenant Day, as it is called, adults and young ones reflect on the day’s significance.
Octavius “Skep” Palacios, 46, said most of what he knew about the significance of the Covenant’s signing on March 24, 1976, he learned from his father, the late Dr. Francisco Taman Palacios, one of the 13 framers of the Covenant from the CNMI.

“And my father passed away on Covenant Day itself in 1983,” Palacios told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

He conceded that many of the younger generations do not know or understand the significance of Covenant Day. The education process, he said, should not only involve schools or teachers, but more importantly, parents themselves and community members.

“I think the parents and all of us community members have a responsibility, too, to pass on to our kids and the next generation knowledge about Covenant Day, about being U.S. citizens, about the CNMI being part of America. I do wish the youths of today learn about the Covenant, there are also a lot of resources to read about it,” Palacios added.

Besides the late Dr. Francisco Taman Palacios, the other framers of the Covenant were Edward DLG. Pangelinan, Vicente N. Santos, Juan LG. Cabrera, Vicente T. Camacho, Jose R. Cruz, Bernard V. Hofschneider, Benjamin T. Manglona, Daniel T. Muña, Manuel A. Sablan, Joannes B. Taimanao, and Pedro A. Tenorio.

“Bo” Palacios, national committeeman of the NMI Republican Party, said yesterday that there’s much room for improvement in educating more youths about Covenant Day, which he describes as a “momentous” part of CNMI’s history.

Some high school and college students approached yesterday at the GOP kickoff rally said they didn’t know much about Covenant Day. But some of them said they would like to learn more about it.

House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), meanwhile, said Friday that despite some people’s feelings that the Covenant didn’t provide some of their expectations, “overall, most of us are happy with the status quo.”

“We should reflect on that day, the day that the will of the people at the time—we’re talking about 78.8 percent of those who voted in favor—I think it was a good decision on our leaders’ part,” he added.

The speaker added that even compared to other U.S. insular areas, the CNMI’s ability to govern itself “is broader than some of the other territories.”

Of the 95 percent of all registered voters in the Northern Marianas who cast ballots in the plebiscite, 78.8 percent voted to approve the Covenant.

The Covenant was subsequently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 21, 1975, and by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 1976.

A month later, President Ford signed Public Law 94-241 (90 Stat. 263), enacting the Covenant.

Some provisions became effective on that date, pursuant to Covenant Section 1003(a).

The remaining provisions became effective on Jan. 9, 1978, as well as on Nov. 4, 1986, when qualified residents of the Northern Mariana Islands became U.S. citizens.

Covenant Day is an observed CNMI holiday. Most government offices and some private businesses are closed today.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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